Technical glitches hurt vibrant ‘Music Man’
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
“The Music Man” at Patio Playhouse Community Theatre in Escondido has all the makings to be a wonderful production.
It just needs some technical polish.
The show that runs through Aug. 25 is part of Escondido’s ninth annual Plays-in-the-Park summer series at the Kit Carson Park Amphitheater.
Last Friday at opening night the large cast showed it is talented, especially leads Bob Himlin as Professor Harold Hill and Shelly Yeager as librarian Marian Paroo. They sang, danced and acted their hearts out.
Unfortunately, microphones cutting out throughout the production marred their efforts, making it hard or impossible to hear their lines and lyrics at times — even when sitting in the second row. At other times, there was static, especially associated with Himlin’s microphone.
Adding to this was a curtain that repeatedly resisted the crew’s efforts to open it — they eventually succeeded each time, but it was distracting to see while the cast kept performing a la “the show must go on” philosophy. Plus, it took way too long for set changes that tended to be quite loud and created awkward pauses in the musical’s flow.
But all of these opening night issues are fixable and hopefully will be remedied for the remaining performances.
As for the positives, there were many. Himlin is enjoyable as the fast-talking salesman Hill, who in 1912 sells band instruments and uniforms to naïve parents of young boys promising to form a band for the youngsters. The problem is he knows nothing about music, so he invents “the think system.” The theory is that if the boys think Beethoven’s “Minuet in G” they will be able to play it — or their parents will be kept happy and oblivious long enough for Hill to collect their money and skip town on the next train before they wise up.
Though having a reputation for getting away with it multiple times, Hill’s past finally catches up with him in River City, Iowa. There, he meets librarian and piano teacher Marian Paroo. While he tries to romance her to keep her silent about his deception, Marian has other motives for not exposing him as she initially intends.
Yeager has a beautiful voice, especially evident in songs like “Goodnight My Someone” and “Till There Was You.” Those in the barbershop quartet were pleasantly harmonious.
As for scene stealers, those include J.R. Reynolds as Marcellus Washburn, Hill’s former con man partner who has settled down in River City, but for old time’s sake is willing to help his buddy out with the deception. Reynolds’ actions in his duet with Himlin during “The Sadder But Wiser Girl” were absolutely hilarious.
Among youngsters, David Voorkamp deserves mention for playing 7-year-old Winthrop Paroo on opening night (the role has been double cast). He shined while singing “Gary, Indiana” and stole the audience’s heart when Winthrop finally comes out of his grief-caused near silence.
Because Patio Playhouse is a volunteer-based community production, there are locals in the cast. They are Poway residents Himlin; his wife, Cathy (who plays the mayor’s wife Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn); and their daughter, Amanda. Among musicians are trumpeter Ken Carstens of Rancho Bernardo, trombonist Bill Oakes of Poway, and trumpeter Steve Yee and violinist Marcia Yee of 4S Ranch.
“The Music Man” can be seen at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 25 at Kit Carson Park Amphitheater, 3333 Bear Valley Parkway in Escondido.
Tickets are $19 for adults; $16 for seniors 60-plus, military and students; and $10 for youths under age 16. Purchase at 760-746-6669 or www.patioplayhouse.org. Parking is free.
A $10 dinner through Mike’s BBQ can be purchased on site starting at 7 p.m. Bringing a blanket and dressing warmly is recommended for the outdoor venue.
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